|Part of what sets this organization apart from other organizations is its trademarks. As our business expands, our trademarks are constantly being applied to more products and services. The more popular our trademarks become, the greater their value is to us, and the greater is the need for their protection.
Each of us uses our trademarks in some way and therefore plays a vital part in our program for preserving and enhancing our trademarks. Proper procedures for obtaining, maintaining and protecting trademarks are the key element in that program. For this reason, our legal counsel has prepared this Policy for the proper use of our trademarks. It is important that we follow this Policy with great care in order to protect our organization’s trademarks from misuse. Our legal counsel is prepared to help you in applying this Policy to specific situations as they arise.
I. Purpose of Policy
The trademarks of this organization and its various departments, divisions and affiliates are valuable assets. However, these assets are fragile and their protection requires constant effort. We must be creative to gain maximum value from our trademarks in support of business objectives, but careful not to impair the validity or worth of the trademarks. This is especially true in connection with the advertising and promotional use of trademarks.
This Policy is intended to provide a general understanding of correct trademark usage and to help in selecting new trademarks. This statement will be interpreted and modified, as needed, by our legal counsel.
II. What Is A Trademark?
A trademark is a word, phrase, name, symbol or any combination of these which is used to identify our products. A trademark distinguishes our products from similar products sold by other organizations. A trademark is our monogram, a marking which identifies a product as to source rather than as to kind or type. A trademark also stands as a symbol of the quality which people expect in products we sell.
It is the trademark to which reputation and goodwill attach. A trademark performs this function whether or not a buyer knows the real name of a product’s maker. For example, the “Sample Mark #1” trademark informs people that the items upon which the mark appears come from the owners of the “Sample Mark #1” trademark, whether or not the purchasers know that “Sample Mark #1” is a trademark of this organization
A service mark is basically the same as a trademark except that it identifies services instead of products. Examples of service marks owned by this organization include “Sample Mark #2” and “Sample Mark #3.” For practical purposes, the same rules apply to service marks as apply to trademarks.
III. Selecting, Clearing and Protecting Proposed New Trademarks
There are a few general rules which should be kept in mind by anyone who is in the process of selecting a new trademark. For instance, a trademark should not include matter which suggests a connection with other organizations or institutions, governments, famous people, etc.
It is unwise to select a trademark which consists of a person’s name, because anyone having that name is free to use it in connection with products or services. A trademark may not be confusingly similar to any other trademark which is in use for similar products or services in the same geographic area. Customarily, our legal counsel will have a search conducted before filing any application to register a trademark to see whether it is confusingly similar to an existing trademark.
It is unwise to select a new trademark which is merely descriptive, or easily suggests, the kind of product or service with which it is to be used. The reason is that anyone is free to use ordinary descriptive words to describe their product or service. On the other hand, a trademark should not be intentionally misdescriptive, suggesting that a product has properties which it does not really have. Similarly, it is unwise to select a mark which is geographically descriptive.
IV. Protection of Existing Trademarks
B. The Risk of Genericness
Sometimes trademarks are adopted by the public as generic names. When this happens the trademark owner finds that other people can use the former trademark just as they can use any other common words. The list of once famous trademarks which have passed from private ownership into the public domain is impressive and frightening. It includes cellophane, nylon, mimeograph, shredded wheat, linoleum, escalator, and kerosene, among others. This must not happen to any of our trademarks. If it does, we will have lost a valuable asset.
The way to avoid converting a trademark into a generic name is to use an obvious generic term to identify the product as to kind or type. Thus, if we were to identify a box of oat flakes cereal, we would refer to it as “Our Brand” oat flakes cereal.
C. General Rules
It is essential in protecting our trademarks and in coordinating our trademark activities that our trademark program be administered at our headquarters. The need for this should be clear. Not everyone may be aware of headquarters policies which may apply in a given situation. Further, actions inconsistent with existing international policy taken in one country can have an adverse effect in another. These reasons, coupled with the objective of a uniform trademark policy coming from a central office, require a standing request to field personnel to discourage contact with outside local law firms. This is the only way we can police and protect our trademarks.
All new advertising, signs, packages, labels, catalogs, brochures, news releases, promotional material, novelties, magazine articles, speeches, broad-distribution memos, or any other medium from which our trademarks will receive significant public attention, should receive proper management and trademark usage approval.
It is our belief and hope that the securing of such approvals will not merely avoid errors which might damage or destroy our trademarks, but will go beyond this objective in a positive way of enhancing the value of our trademarks, and increasing the effectiveness of the media vehicles in which they appear.
Although this statement of policy should answer many of your questions about trademarks, your principal guide in trademark matters is our legal counsel. Contact that office for additional trademark advice.